Over the last 15 years, we have come to be known as a sustainability-focused coffee roaster. That was no accident – we have worked diligently to make our practices, at home and abroad, as socially responsible and ethically-sound as possible. Our travels to origin over the years have informed our sensibility and outlook on the planet and people who produce the coffee we all love so much. Being mindful of our impact is a responsibility we take very seriously.
It has been said before and should be said again and again, coffee is unfortunately an inherently exploitative product. It exploits those that grow it, with sub-standard wages, living conditions and opportunities for advancement, and it exploits the land, as producers are forced to make decisions that are detrimental to the environment to keep their heads above water or maintain some semblance of profitability.
Thanks to the hard work of the specialty coffee community, doors have been opened and opportunities have been created to change that reality. Coffee has become so much more sustainable in every way possible, and we are proud to be a part of that on-going effort. Certifications, direct trade models and a more and more open dialogue throughout the industry have provided better frameworks for farmers to operate under. Many are able to get the support they need to make changes that offer the chance to improve both the lives of their families and employees, the land they count on and the quality of their coffee – making a choice between them is no longer necessarily required. NGOs, roasters and responsible corporate actors are creating the beginnings of a social safety net that provides security and emboldens farmers to experiment and improve or expand their offering and creating new streams of revenue.
To that end, by Earth Day 2018, we are committing to source 100% of our coffee from certified farms (including but not limited to: Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade, organic, or Utz) or through direct trade relationships (upcoming blog post about this!). When neither certified nor direct trade options are available, we are committed to work with farmers, coops, exporters and importers to create programs that will ensure traceability back to who grew it and assistance for the farm and/or community growing the coffee we are buying. Over the past few years, we have engaged with suppliers to help us find new avenues to increase traceability and work more with women coffee producers, who have always played a crucial role in coffee, but have rarely held positions of power in the industry at large, and especially at the farming level. We are currently 85% of the way there in our march to a sustainable coffee supply chain, and our team is working, harvest by harvest, to chip away at what remains.
But sustainability in coffee doesn’t begin and end at the farm: we also must work to make our piece of the process – roasting, packaging, shipping – more socially and environmentally responsible. For years, we did what we could, but struggled to measure our impact and benchmark our progress. Then, in 2013 we were first certified a B Corporation – a designation that insures that we meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency, verified by a third party every other year. B Corp’s standards gave us the tools we needed, not just to measure our impact, but to strive for continuous improvements on all fronts.
As you can see from the chart below, after our re-certification in 2016, our score improved by 11 points (in a time when many re-certifiers scores went down). We are particularly proud of our score in the environmental section, as well as our improvements in our ‘community’ and ‘worker’ scores. But we continue to look for areas of improvement and have set a goal to improve our score to cross the 100 point mark in our next re-certification. We aim to achieve this by re-doubling our commitment to conservation and energy-use reduction, refocusing our philanthropic efforts, and creating an even better working environment for our staff.
Additionally this year, thanks to B Lab’s leadership in addressing the changing geo-political winds in the world (you know the ones…) and some less-than-accepting attitudes towards diversity, many B Corps, ourselves included, are participating in an Inclusion Challenge, to work specifically on improving business practices that help create a more open and accepting work place and economy.
Ultimately, sustainability factors in to all of the choices we make as a company in one way or another. It has to, and as we see it, that is the only path forward. Because – to slightly alter what has already been said – coffee is an inherently exploitative product, but it doesn’t have to be. That is our mission and our goal: to be less imperfect, to always be getting better, to always have the best interests of the planet, the farmers we work with, our community, our customers and our staff, at heart as we make decisions. And that as we grow this company, that our commitment to sustainability doesn’t waiver, and it only becomes a more and more important piece of who we are.